Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Thursday called on striking teachers' unions to start a dialogue, underscoring that his cabinet considers education and teachers to be important, however, union members held a silent protest outside Government House during his address.
"This government has done more considering wage and pension increases than many previous governments. Let us make it clear that education is important, learning is important, teachers are important," the premier said outside Government House in his address to the disgruntled unionists who stood in silence on Thursday morning.
He said that the ongoing reform in schools was good and its purpose was to make young Croatians competitive on the labour market.
He also said that his cabinet pursued dialogue with trade unions and respected their right to strike.
Plenkovic underscored that during the term of his government so far, wages have risen by 12% and would go up further by 18.3% next year.
As for the issue of job complexity indices, he said that this problem was inherited from previous governments.
Plenkovic recalled that the talks about labour-related matters would also be held today in the Labour Ministry.
We are open and we call for social dialogue on improving the material status of teachers, Plenkovic said adding that his government has proved to be "a friend of workers and pensioners."
About 300 members of the striking school unions held a silent protest during Plenkovic's address outside Government House.
The unions have been on a strike for 29 days, insisting on a 6.11 percent increase of the job complexity index for teachers.
One of the union leaders, Branimir Mihalinec, yesterday criticised today's meeting in the ministry as "a spin". He also rejected any responsibility by union leaders for damage done to students, who have been out of school because of the strike, and shifted the responsibility to the prime minister.
Children's Ombudswoman Helenca Pirnat Dragicevic said on Wednesday that the ongoing teachers' strike violated children's right to regular education, as guaranteed by the Croatian Constitution and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and she called on those involved to agree on social peace and to resolve the current situation.